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Amazing Spider-Man 2, The (3D Blu-ray Review)

15 Aug, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 8/19/14
Sony Pictures
Box Office $202.78 million
$30.99 DVD, $40.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated 'PG-13' for sequences of sci-fi action, violence.
Stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field.

If there was one big thing that separated The Amazing Spider-Man from the earlier Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" trilogy, it was that the scope of the storytelling was much more grounded, removing some of the goofiness in favor of staying a bit truer to the comic book source. This was most evident in the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the ill-fated romance that was a cornerstone of the first decade or so of the original Spider-Man comics.

The film also set up a major conspiracy story arc with the potential of spanning several films, creating a saga not unlike the "Dark Knight" films. Much of it related to the origin of Peter's powers and the disappearance of his parents.

Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't quite sure how it wants to juggle these various plot threads. It's a bit disheartening to hear the writers explain in the Blu-ray extras about how they came up with the story, as if certain plot threads established in the first film hadn't been developed with some sort of idea of how they would pay off in a sequel (not that such foresight is a hallmark of Hollywood productions).

The film does fill in a lot of blanks left over from the first film, and it does a decent if obvious job adapting one of the most famous storylines in comic book history. But then there's this middle part with Jamie Foxx as the villain Electro that seems like a relic from one of the Raimi films (or possibly even one of the Joel Schumacher "Batman" movies). Foxx's performance is so hammy and out of place it's hard to reconcile his scenes with the rest of the movie, although a cynic would suggest he's there primarily to offer an excuse for fancy visual effects and 3D eye-candy.

There's also the sudden evolution of Dan DeHaan's Harry Osborn character into the Green Goblin, with the only justification for it being the filmmakers' desires to align the plot with the primary comic book storyline being adapted.

As with the previous film, ASM2's best asset is the relationship between Parker and Stacy, and the film is obviously trying to take as much advantage as it can of the natural chemistry between real-life couple Garfield and Stone. Even here the film overplays its hand a bit, pushing their interactions to the brink of being cloying and unbearable before interrupting the proceedings with a random villain attack.

The 3D is a mixed bag, since unlike the first film, this one was shot on film and converted. Some of the slow-motion shots and the cityscapes look gorgeous in 3D, while in some of the effects-heavy action sequences the 3D really highlights the artificiality of the visuals.

This is one of those weird franchise films that gives the fans plenty of reasons to enjoy it but offers enough baggage for its detractors to really dig in. For those who liked it, the Blu-ray offers a slew of bonus materials, including nearly two hours of behind-the-scenes footage, a comprehensive commentary with the writers and producers, an Alicia Keys music video and several deleted scenes. The centerpiece is the deleted scene in which Peter's father seemingly returns from the dead to provide valuable advise to his son. It's an interesting if somewhat baffling setpiece, designed to resolve a plot issue handled much more eloquently in the finished film. Unfortunately, another much-talked about deleted scene that could set the stage for future sequels is not included here.

Tepid fan response to the reboot series seems to have inspired Sony to hold off on a third film for a couple of years, and given this film's muddled narrative that's probably a good thing. Whether the planned spinoff films can carry their own water is another question entirely.

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